Can the Subaltern Be Seen?

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In his article, Grandin tells the affects of nation building in Quetzaltenango the Guatemalan highland city. At the beginning of the 20th century photographer Tomas Zanotti arrives Quetzaltenango and starts taking photos of the dwellers of the city. At the beginning the photos are used for official documents, later on dwellers start to come more often to his studio. Photography used as a tool of hegemonic power by classifying, fixing and coding. Growth of a bureaucratic state, expansion of capitalist relations and elaboration of nationalism were the consequences of the photography as we can see in the photos of Zanotti. He didn’t show the indigenous people as nonmodern and in their life-cycle events. Mostly the photos of him were used as an icon of remembrance. When he arrived to Quetzaltenango there were upheavals. The effects of liberal era were able to be seen in the region. Commodification of property and labor, secularization of state institutions and coffee plantation capitalism were the processes that were accompanying the ladino nationalism. Ladinos were thinking that the progress of the nation was depending on the elimination of the Indians. However K’iche elites, the descendants of the Mayans, were saying that neither the nation nor the Indian could move forward without the other. They were becoming wealthier thanks to coffee plantation and imagining the future of Quetzaltenango as composed of both the Indians and the Ladinos. On the other hand the nation that they were living in was at war with indigenous culture. The photos of Zanotti raise questions about nationalism and questions of agency, representation and subjectivity. In these photos we can see the emergence of the modern individual, nation and bourgeoisie class in Quetzaltenango. These photos show how everyday community-based ideas and social relations governing men and women, rich and poor, urban and rural, ladino and Indian became nationalized into a visual imaginary that captured not...
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